Marshmallows

Country of origin: ancient Egypt?

These fluffy sweets get their name from the marshmallow plant, whose root – in its powdered form – was traditionally used as the thickening agent; nowadays most are made with gelatine instead. Not just for neat eating: pair with some hot chocolate, toast until gooey, flavour with chocolate, fill with raspberries, roll in shredded coconut, the list goes on.

It never occured to me to try and make them at home, until I tried some divine homemade peach-flavoured marshmallows at a party. Indeed, there are only a few ingredients: sugar, corn syrup (if using), water and gelatine; it’s the process that requires care. Getting the sugar syrup to the correct temperature, pouring it in a thin steady stream onto the gelatine and corn syrup and then ensuring that this mixture is whisked until completely cool before placing it in a pan.

David Lebovitz’s post on marshmallows is very informative; his recipe uses egg whites, and no corn syrup. There is even a  post on when and when not to use corn syrup. One great idea mentioned is to make a few free-form marshmallows and then placing them on a lemon or lime tart, perfect! I would like to try and pipe on a marshmallow topping the next time I make lemon meringue pie.

 Of course, you could also take the s’mores road and make a marshmallow and chocolate sandwich using Graham cracker/digestive biscuit. This reminds of a dessert I’ve had here (cubes of chocolate custard, ice cream, crumbled Graham cracker and lightly toasted marshmallow, yum.)

Once the marshmallow sheet is set, cut into desired shapes and rolled in sugar/cornstarch, they can be stored for a while, but make sure they are in an airtight container, separated with parchment paper.

The mixture becomes very sticky and gloopy, so lightly oil your hands or any implements before you go near it:

You can cut out any shapes you like, although being slightly squidgy, you don’t always get clean lines, like these bears:

Tips:

– Don’t – like I did – let the sugar syrup boil for ages, use a smallish pan, to avoid evaporating away the water. As a result of the long boiling time, I suspect that my marshmallow mix was particularly difficult to transfer from mixing bowl to tin.

– The recipe I used suggests just powdered sugar to dust the cut marshmallows in, but i made a mix of a third cornstarch and the rest powdered sugar, to ensure they stayed completely dry.

– Simple I know, but it’s a good idea to test your thermometer is working before starting! Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and check that it shows up as 212 degrees F or 100 degrees C.

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